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More virtual book events should be variety shows!

Jonny Diamond

December 9, 2020, 3:04pm

Ryan Chapman (erstwhile host of Nerd Jeopardy, back episodes of which you can enjoy here) is launching the paperback edition of his novel, Riots I Have Known, tonight, and as a veteran showman of the literary world, Chapman has decided to put together something a little different. Tonight’s launch is being billed as “coast-to-coast variety show featuring booze tips for lockdown, ribald stories, writing advice, cooking segments, psychedelics, and a few surprises.” Included in the star-studded line-up are literary luminaries (and funny people) like Kristen Arnett, Josh Gondelman, Geoff Dyer, and musical guests Sari Botton and Brian Macaluso. You can register here, show starts at 8pm EST.

We asked Chapman why he’s gone to all the trouble, and what he thinks about virtual book events in general.

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What makes a virtual book event good?
It should be so entertaining my unattended pasta burns on the stove. “You ruined my dinner” is the highest of zoom compliments.

What makes one bad?
When the authors have nicer bookshelves than me.

Why a variety show?
After nearly nine months of virtual events I wanted to try something more ambitious than the “Reading + Conversation + Q&A” format. I think working from home and a restricted social life has given me a weird confidence I can pull it off. Tune in for a possibly profound humbling!

What’s the book world thing you miss most from pre-pandemic times?
The last IRL book event I attended was Kevin Nguyen’s launch for New Waves, at Books Are Magic. Afterwards a bunch of us went to a bar and gossiped. (Not about Kevin; he was there too.) I miss the gossip.

What role do you think there’ll be for events in a post-pandemic world?
I enjoyed the chance to catch brilliant literary programming around the world: Wordplay, the Portland Book Festival, the Red Line Book Festival… And of course, Andrew Sean Greer’s IG Live shows on the Janklow & Nesbit account. I hope these programs will continue to be accessible for those of us outside metro areas. As for in-person events post-pandemic, let’s start a tradition of pelting authors with confetti.

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